Written by Ioana Pintilie, Final Year Psychology Student and Careers Service Blogger
Securing a graduate job in the UK is challenging to begin with – for an EU student it could be even worse. As an EU final year student who came to the UK to study and with the ambition to work, this is how I overcame some typical challenges:
- Fear of failure
The issue: To state the obvious, university in the UK is expensive. Because of this, it makes sense to feel a great deal of anxiety when talking to friends from your home country who somehow managed to get an enjoyable, well-paid job, by applying from the comfort of their own bedrooms, with half of your effort and a fraction of the cost. Meanwhile, you are in your term-time bedroom in accommodation you share with strangers, juggling dissertation work, coursework, possibly a part-time job, money management, socialising, family pressures and job applications – and all of that in your second language, chances are! So, obviously, you start to wonder – was coming here even worth it? Did I just waste tons of money and got myself into debt to end up just about as well-off as my friends?
What to do? First of all, remind yourself of the good things you were fortunate enough to experience whilst studying abroad – the people you would have otherwise been unlikely to meet, the places you’ve seen, the opportunities you enjoyed, and all the different cultures you’ve encountered. Second of all, you’ve taken the initiative to go far away from family, friends and familiar places, you understood all the legal requirements, achieved academic results, virtually looked after yourself for the first time in your life, worked twice as hard as your peers – and all of that in your second language! This is not only something that not everyone can achieve, but it also demonstrates skills that employers everywhere are looking for – willingness to take a challenge, responsibility, adaptability, ability to work well under stress, efficient money management, an independent mindset and a desire to learn. Take the time to remind yourself of all that and be confident – you are amazing!
- The competition-prejudice combo
The issue: If you were blessed enough to have a name that is commonly used in English or at least easy to pronounce, I truly envy you! My name, although common in my home country, has never failed to bring about puzzled grimaces on the face of any British person that tried to read it. At first it annoyed me, later it amused me, and now I am no longer trying to correct mispronunciations. However, it can also bring about an implication when looking for employment: are employers prejudiced against foreign applicants? Maybe I am overthinking it, but to me it always felt that on top of the already-competitive UK job market, I am faced with additional difficulty that is directly caused by my EU citizenship. This is because at the screening stage, employers can and will be as fussy as they want to be and they can “skip” your CV as soon as they come across the faintest hint of doubt.
What to do? I decided to become more selective in the employers I send my CV to. That is not to negate the advice of applying in as many places as you can, but do make sure you know exactly what you value in a company you work for and do your research. Check the company’s website – what do they take pride in? Check the company’s LinkedIn – how many non-English names can you find in their employee list? If you are invited to an interview and the interviewer is prejudiced – would you really want to work there? Know your own worth, keep searching and trust that once you encounter the right people, it will all work out. Oh, and don’t forget to embrace your EU background – you carry an extra language, a different perspective, insight into a non-UK market, not to mention all sorts of quirks that together build brand YOU.
- What am I doing with my life?
The issue: Okay, you’ve had a plan that you were relying on and for some reason it didn’t work out. You are now about to finish uni and you have no plans for the upcoming summer, let alone the coming year. While your mates are preparing to relax, you either panic or feel your mood decrease by the day. You feel stuck and the prospect of having to give up plans and just travel back to your home country is looming.
What to do? Take things one step at a time. The final few weeks of uni are quite crucial for your degree and it’s important to make sure you go through this challenging time well-prepared. After all, it’s not like the whole story has to end here, but merely the chapter called “uni”. As my mum often tells me, “What’s yours is already out there, waiting for you to get to it”. Maybe you just don’t know everything yet. Take some time off to try out something new. Reconsider postgrad study. Go see a new country. Take up a new hobby. Do something you’ve always wanted to do but never had a chance to. The upcoming summer is likely to be the only thing that’s separating you form, well…adulthood. Make the most of it and remember: very few people actually have everything sorted out. But that is because things are just about to sort themselves out. Have confidence and see where life takes you next.